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Cooking for the Dreaded Office Potluck (yikes!)


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An upcoming potluck at my office got me thinking about this potluck topic and the Dreaded Office Potluck in general. Many of us on eGullet will probably agree that office potlucks can be scary affairs with even scarier consumables (although some gems can be found amidst the dreadfuls).

Here's my problem: I haven't cooked for too many office potlucks (only one other - I brought a mixed green salad with prosciutto & walnuts, simple balsamic vinaigrette). My office is limited to a dinky microwave, fridge/freezer (not a lot of room in there), kettle, and toaster. No toaster oven. We have about a dozen people working here, most of whom will eat most things, and one extremely picky eater who likely won't be eating much of anything contributed. There will probably be a number of dishes of the creamy dip-like nature and store-bought stuff.

So....what kinds of dishes do eGulleters contribute? How do you handle cooking for office potlucks? Any tried-and-true items that appeal to most co-workers, but also tasty?

Incidentally, our Dreaded Office Potluck is planned for Halloween....scary, indeed!

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Ooh, it's planned for Hallowe'en? That opens so many possibilities.....

My go-to for potlucks is generally filled bread of some sort - knowing that there are a dozen people, you can safely do a dozen cheese-stuffed brioches, and bingo, obligation over.

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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agree with grain or pasta salad, they hold up well for a while at room temp if the dressing is more of a vinegar base and it seems everyone will try a spoonful if it just has veggies and cheese

"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast" - Oscar Wilde

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I've always had good luck with this one:

Barley-Spelt Grain Salad


8 Oz Spelt

8 Oz Pearled Barley

I small tomato, diced

½ cucumber, seeded and diced

1 can of olives, halved

1 Tbl minced fresh dill

8 Oz feta cheese

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

½ cup diced red onion


1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup cider vinegar

2 cloves garlic

2 Tbl coarsely chopped dill

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large Dutch oven or stock pot bring 4 quarts of lightly-salted water to a boil

and add the spelt. Bring back to the boil and then reduce to a simmer and let

simmer for 45 minutes. Add the barley, bring back to a boil, then reduce to a

simmer and let simmer another 45 minutes, then remove from heat, drain and set

aside to cool.

When the grains have cooled to room temperature, place in a large bowl. Add

the remainder of the salad ingredients and mix by bringing the spoon up from the

bottom of the bowl until thoroughly mixed.

Place all of the dressing ingredients in a food processor and process until

smooth. Pour over the salad and mix in using the same technique used to mix

the salad ingredients. Cover and place in the refrigerator. Serve cool or at room


Whole wheat berries can be substituted for the spelt.

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook


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I did a mushroom/basil tart at the last one and Alice Medrich's heavenly macaroons. Someone else brought along their crockpot and heated up a chili they'd made the day before. One of the most popular things was a rather nice cheese tray that 2 people collaborated on - I don't mean the cut up cubes from the supermarket, but they chose 3 or 4 nice cheeses with a small selection of good crackers and a baguette. The runaway hit was devilled eggs!,

However, by far the most loved potluck at work was a very spontaneous breakfast/brunch one. 2 days notice and people didn't have a chance to overthink it. I made a couple of batches of mini crustless quiches, someone else brought blueberry muffins, there were waffles of various kinds from the Belgian Waffle place, cheese & fruit plate, croissants, Lox, cream cheese, bagels and the fixings. We made it a point that there was no pressure on the home-made-from-scratch thing and the response was terrific. For a small office or department - this is just the thing.

Edited by Rover (log)
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I once took a really big bowl of carmel corn to a pot luck. I figured it was food safe and light to carry in and although it was not touched right away, after the mains were consumed the Popcorn was demolished.

Halloween time calls for thinking a little crazy!

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Believe it or not, my favorite thing to make for a potluck is my best pulled pork. It reheats in a microwave beautifully. I bring little rolls, cole slaw, and barbecue sauce. My second favorite thing to bring is really good cold sesame noodles (e.g., Fuschia Dunlop). Mac and cheese. For Halloween? maybe chili and dinner rolls. Very warming.

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I usually do either a macaroni salad, very basic, that people love, or a cheaters bean salad, ditto. Quick, simple and damn good, if I do say so myself! PM me me if you'd like the methods.

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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FrogPrincesse mentioned quiche, my most customary pot-luck contribution. They're suitable for any meal, can be substantially prepped in advance (cook filling, grate cheese, make pie crust) the day before or even earlier and they stay warm for an amazingly long time when insulated in some combination of towels, newspaper and grocery bags so no fridge or microwaving required. I've baked quiche in the early AM here in So Cal and brought it to a pot-luck in Seattle - TSA only asked what smelled so good.

Much like the your previous experience, I've found a salad with bagged baby spinach, dried cranberries or cherries, etc., candied walnuts or pecans, feta and some sort of balsamic vinaigrette is usually very well received and just requires grabbing a big bowl and serving utensils before a pit stop at the market. Of course, I usually do more prep at home and package everything up (red onion, orange segments, homemade spiced nuts and dressing, etc.) separately but it can be done straight from the grocery.

My third option is a cold noodle dish with a spicy peanut sauce (Yank Sing chili pepper sauce being the secret ingredient), julienned carrot, cucumber, egg and green onion. Everything can be packed up separately and tossed just before serving.

I love my work pot-lucks. There are always a few people who buy KFC or something but most people really put some effort into it. Maybe a bunch of scientists are accustomed to perfecting their own protocols but everything is usually very good.

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Wow! Great ideas, folks - keep 'em coming! I do have access to a crockpot + electrical outlet, so I've been kicking around the idea of doing a pumpkin/squash soup (in keeping with the Halloween thing) or tortilla soup or chili. Or sign up for dessert duty and bring Nanaimo bars or pumpkin pie.

Good points on quiches and savoury tarts keeping well at room temp. How does phyllo pastry do at room temp? Does it get soggy?

And of course hearty cold salads of the grain/pasta/potato/bean kind are easy to make the night before and most people like them. Maybe I'll go for my mom's cold sesame noodles.

I'd like to put a little effort into this, but not overly much, as I'm not keen on staying up too late cooking on a weeknight.


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I prefer my mother's recipe macaroni and cheese. (It's a fairly basic bechamel-and-cheddar affair.) After baking in the oven, I wrap the tray in towels and it stays hot for hours. Transferring the food to a preheated ceramic crock pot liner also works well.

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Scotch eggs are my go-to for potlucks. Mine are literally just hardboiled eggs wrapped in good breakfast, rolled in panko, baked, and cut in half. They're great at room temperature, dead simple to make, and people are always impressed!

"Nothing you could cook will ever be as good as the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet." - my EX (wonder why he's an ex?)

My eGfoodblog: My corner of the Midwest

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